By Frank Franklyn for Newz66.com with inputs from IANS
PANAJI: Starting Sunday, Goa’s reputation as a nightlife destination is in great peril. A ban on outdoor nightlife and commercial activity imposed by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s BJP government comes into effect Jan 5.
All commercial activity in Goa will have to wind up by 1 a.m., according to Parrikar, who said the decision was necessary to curb the rising wave of crimes, especially looting of tourists, burglaries and thefts.
All commercial activity will have to shut after 1 a.m.,” Parrikar said, announcing the ban last Thursday.
Only five-star hotels and indoor activities have been spared the ban. Hundreds of the state’s beach shacks, open dance floors and other open dining courtyards will come under the new regulation.
The ban comes on the heels of week-long celebrations in India’s party state, which included Christmas as well as New Year revelries. There was also a string of music parties across the coastal stretch.
Newz66.com conducted a survey among shack owners, small road-side eateries and restaurants and other businesses to find out how the order will affect them.
Says a shack owner who has been running a shack at Benaulim for the last two decades, “Most of our clientele is from the 5 star hotels in the vicinity who drop in after mid night for a drink or two. Shutting down at 1 am will only increase corruption as the police will demand “haftas” or bribes every time a shack owner is caught on the wrong side of the law. I cannot shut down exactly at 1 am and ask my guests to go away. Sometimes we shut at 12.30, but on some days when there are a few guests, we may stay open even till 2 am. Business in Goa is seasonal, unlike Mumbai or Delhi and small shack and restaurant owners get business only for 3-5 months a year. Even during this period if the government decides to close all commercial activity by 1 am, we will end up facing losses.”
Most sections of Goa have called the ban a party pooper, and said it was brought into force to mask the inefficiency of a floundering state police force which has been unable to control rising crime.
“It’s a ridiculous move. Shutting down activity and staying indoors is not going to help the situation. We’ve had a burglary twice at our home so far…
The reason for the steep rise in burglary and crime is that the crooks are not scared of the cops or the law and order machinery in the state,” says Skitter Faia, a public relations professional who lives in Colva, a popular beach village in south Goa.
Shalom Sardinha, a Congressman, says it would be unfair to blame the police alone. The son of a sitting Lok Sabha MP, he says the blame rests with politicians for more reasons than one.
“It would be unfair to blame just the police as most of these nefarious activities are (done) with the backing and support of the state’s politicians,” says Sardinha, adding that shortage of police personnel was also a handicap.
Former president of the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Manguirish Pai Raikar feels that not allowing music, especially in Goa, with its profile as an entertainment destination, is wrong.
Raikar told IANS that these indiscriminate bans work well for local politicians who extort money from hospitality outfits who play music to enhance a visitor experience.
“I have seen people at Morjim blackmailing the hoteliers. They allow music only after you pay them. Are visitors coming here to gaze at the stars? They might want to enjoy the sound of music with their food. We need to look into this matter, or stop tourism altogether,” Raikar said.
But G. Ganesh, a web developer who has managed a nightclub in the past, feels that there is a need to curb nightlife: “There have been problems because of the late-night commercial activities — noise pollution, accidents, burglaries, etc,” Ganesh says, adding that the “corrupt, lazy and unfit” police force are to blame for the breakdown in law and order.
Parrikar, who is also the home minister, has been drawing flak for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, especially in view of a recent mob attack on a BJP legislator by the saffron party’s cadre.
The chief minister claims that even mega cities like Mumbai and Delhi have such laws, which he says help bring down the crime graph.
“There are chances that criminals can easily melt away during late night events,” he said, justifying the shutdown.
But a majority of small businesses in Goa, particularly those in the food and nightlife business do not buy Parrikar’s claims. “Can he guarantee the people of Goa that there will be absolutely no burglaries, thefts or crime if this order is implemented? Or is this another stunt to line the pockets of certain politicians,” asked a restaurant owner at Small Vagator whose very popular beach-side eatery will be harshly affected by this order.
High profile beach-side restaurants are not frequented by crooks and theieves, but by an elite crowd including foreigners. If the 5-stars can remain open, how will it curb crime? People will travel anyway late into the night, it will only increase business for the big guys and kill small restaurants, said another shack owner at Candolim.
with inputs from IANS